Buckwheat Gets Its Own Back

Nutritional value and versatility are only two of the reasons this 'wheat' that's not really wheat has attained new popularity.

Buckwheat & lentils with sweet potato & onion, in yogurt nana mint sauce
Buckwheat & lentils with sweet potato & onion, in yogurt nana mint sauce. Limor Laniado Tiroche

The Chinese domesticated buckwheat more than 1,000 years ago, but it was only after it “migrated” to Russia with the Tatar tribes much later that it took on the status of an important food. Poverty and a shortage of other foods made buckwheat a welcome addition to the diet. Since a small amount can be filling, it has many nutritional advantages and its crop yield is plentiful even in bad weather.

There is something misleading, however, about buckwheat groats. They are not, as you might think, a grain or a legume − as are other groats − but rather the triangular-shaped seed of the plant’s fruit. Therefore, buckwheat is gluten-free ‏(making it permissible for people with celiac‏). And, notwithstanding its name, buckwheat is also wheat. Furthermore, the species we know today is not the same as that referred to in the Bible as kosemet, which our ancestors used; apparently that word was used to denote what we call spelt ‏(kosmin in modern Hebrew‏).

Two types of buckwheat are available in the markets: roasted ‏(brown‏) and unroasted ‏(greenish‏). Locally, the roasted variety has an inferior image, in part because its dominant taste is reminiscent of nuts and soil. This is the buckwheat used to make the famous Polish kasha, a suitable hot, side dish for roast beef, with fried onions and goose fat. Kasha is cooked like rice: Saute a lot of onions until browned, add the buckwheat and saute before adding water. At the end of the cooking process, you season with a tablespoon of goose fat, salt and pepper.

You can find unroasted buckwheat ‏(which we call buckwheat groats‏) in health food stores. It is considered a complete protein, containing most of the essential amino acids, and is rich in iron, fiber, zinc and selenium. It is best to pre-soak it in cold water.  limortiroche@gmail.com

Buckwheat & lentils with sweet potato & onions, in yogurt-spearmint sauce
Makes four servings.

Tomatoes stuffed with buckwheat, olives, herbs & mozzarella
Limor Laniado Tiroche

1/2 cup buckwheat
1/2 cup black lentils
7 tablespoons olive oil
8 chopped scallions, including the green part
4 chopped garlic cloves
2 red onions, peeled and sliced into eighths
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small
1 small bunch baby spinach leaves, washed and cut into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
For the sauce:
4 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped spearmint
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Soak buckwheat and lentils ‏(separately‏) in cold water for 3 hours. Drain. Boil a pot of water ‏(as for pasta‏) and cook the buckwheat for 10 minutes. Taste; if the kernels are still a bit hard, cook for another minute or two. Drain, remove. In the same pot, boil water and cook the lentils for 10 minutes. Taste; if the lentils are a bit hard, cook until softened. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place the onions in a roasting pan, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a little salt, and roast for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato; mix the little cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and a little pepper. Add them to the onions, and continue roasting for another 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes soften.

In a frying pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil, saute the scallions for 2 minutes, add garlic and the drained buckwheat, and saute for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly. Add lentils and spices, saute for 1 minute and then turn off the fire. Add the roasted onions and sweet potatoes ‏(you can separate the onion skins a bit with your hands‏), and chopped spinach. Mix, adjust the seasonings, and serve warm with yogurt mixed with chopped mint, lemon juice and zest.

Fattoush Salad with buckwheat
Limor Laniado Tiroche

Fattoush salad with buckwheat
Makes four servings.

1/2 cup buckwheat
20 cherry tomatoes, halved ‏(you can use several colors‏)
2 cucumbers, cut into semicircular slices
4 chopped scallions, including the green part
handful of spearmint leaves
5-6 baby radishes, sliced in thin rounds
zest of 1 lemon
1 lemon, without the peel, chopped
1 bunch arugula, washed and dried
For the dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the garnish:
100 grams crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon fresh sumac

Soak buckwheat in cold water for 3 hours. Drain. Boil a pot of water ‏(as for pasta‏) and cook the buckwheat for 10 minutes. Taste; if the kernels are still a bit hard, cook for another minute or two. Drain. Combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl. Toss with the dressing ingredients, adjust the seasonings and serve with feta and sumac.

Tomatoes stuffed with buckwheat, olives, herbs & mozzarella

For appetizers for six people.

 

1/3 cup unroasted ‏(green‏) buckwheat

6 tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 chopped scallions, including the green part

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 hot green pepper, chopped

6 black olives ‏(Kalamata‏), pitted and chopped

2 anchovy fillets, chopped

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/3 cup chopped basil

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch black pepper

For the topping:
1 Buffalo mozzarella ball sliced into rounds
6 basil leaves
6 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil

Soak buckwheat in cold water for 3 hours. Drain. Boil a pot of war and cook the buckwheat for 10 minutes. Taste; if the kernels are still a bit hard, cook for another minute or two. Drain. Slice the top off each tomato and reserve the caps for later. With the help of a melon-baller or spoon, scoop out the tomato pulp and overturn it so it will dry out. Chop the pulp and reserve for later ‏(without the liquid‏).

In a frying pan with olive oil, saute the scallions for 2 minutes. Add garlic, hot green pepper, olives and anchovies, and saute for 2 minutes. Add drained buckwheat and saute for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chopped tomato pulp and continue sauteeing for another 2 minutes. Add herbs, stir, and turn off the fire. Season, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Stuff the tomatoes with the filling and arrange in an oven-safe baking dish greased with olive oil. Top each tomato with a slice of mozzarella, a basil leaf and an anchovy. Cover with the tomato cap, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 45 minutes.